It’s a poorly kept industry secret that rock writers are cheaters, frauds, and goons — as dependent on Google as a clown is on facepaint. Our ongoing column “Are You Smarter Than a Rock Critic?” peels away that layer of illusion and puts a measurable number on just how ill-equpped we are at doing our jobs. Last week we saw exactly how little we knew about the Wu-Tang Clan. And this week’s puzzler was evidently no less a stumper:
How many members of New Edition can you name?
We once again cobbled a panel of 15 professional and semi-professional rock critics. They were all given the usual rules:
1. I will not identify you AT ALL, so it is OK to be wrong.
[We will say that our esteemed panel edits magazines, websites and alt-weeklies. They have written for pretty much every outlet you’ve ever heard of–from Rolling Stone, Spin, and Billboard on down to random Tweets.]
2. You can’t use Google.
How did our panel of rock critic telephone men and candy girls do? Did our question rub them the right way? The answer, and the depressing results, below:
The correct answer: Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, Ricky Bell, Michael “Biv” Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe.
Out of 15 polled:
Number of critics that answered correctly and got all six members: 5
Number of critics that got five members: 5
Number of critics that got four members: 3
Number of critics that got only one member: 2
Most unguessed member: Ralph Tresvant
Member that everyone across the board got right away: Bobby Brown
Critics who somehow guessed one but not all the members of Bell Biv DeVoe: 2
Showoffs who tried to go for “are we counting old and new eras” bonus points: 2
Critics who seemed literally shocked that they knew the correct answer: 2
Critics who had to sing “Motownphilly” to themselves: 2
Critics who had to sing “Cool It Now” to themselves: 1
Critics who guessed Keith Sweat: 1
Critics who guessed Raphael Saadiq: 1
Critics who said “Bell Biv DeVoe” like Kevin McDonald in the Kids in the Hall sketch: 0
Critics who got pissy and asked, “Why aren’t you asking rock questions? I’ve never given a shit about New Edition”: 1
Critics who unsuccessfully tried to get bonus points by sending me a link to Ronnie DeVoe’s real-estate company: 1
Critics who worked at a record store where there was some esoteric formula worked out where New Edition was mathematically equivalent to Pussy Galore [Bobby Brown = Jon Spencer, Bell Biv DeVoe = Royal Trux, Ralph Tresvant = Bewitched, Johnny Gill = Free Kitten]: 1
If you didn’t get the answer, do not worry. We all have our blindspots and brainfarts. For example: I’ve forgotten the names of Queen’s rhythm section like a dozen times at this point. Thanks for existing, Wikipedia!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 14, 2011